The most prominent families in The Gambia

Written by Alieu Khan

Jammeh

Topping our list as most prominent family in the country is the First Family, which includes President Jammeh, First Lady Zenab Jammeh and their two children, Mariam and Muhammed.  The president was born in Kanilai in 1965, shortly after The Gambia gained independence from Great Britain.

Coming in second place are the Jawara families of former president Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara and famous businessman Basiru Jawara.

Jawara

Sir Dawda led the country to independence in 1965. His son, Ebrima Jawara is currently working for the APRC government.

Basiru Jawara, a native of Sabi in the Upper River Region, is arguably the wealthiest Sarahule man in The Gambia.  His children are well educated, and most of them already millionaires.

Jahumpa

The Jahumpa family is another prominent family in the country. Alhagie Garba I.M Jahumpa was the founder of the Muslim Congress Party - a party that represented the Muslim population of Banjul. Two of his children are actively involved in politics. Bala Garba Jahumpa is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and her sister, Fatoumatta Jahumpa –Ceesay was the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Jallow

One of the most inspiring families in the country that is not actively involved in politics is the Jallows of Bansang.  Sheikh Alhaji Bubacar Zaidi Jallow (RA) was Imam and teacher to a vast number of talibes (religious students). One of his most famous sons is former Justice Minister, Hassan B. Jallow. He was Sir Dawda’s trusted aide, and now working with the United Nations.

Bojang

The Bojang family is said to be the owners of Brikama. They are the custodians of the land. To become a traditional chief in Brikama you must be a Bojang. Some members of the family include former Deputy Inspector General of Police, Dembo Satang Bojang and the newly appointed information minister, Hon. Sheriff Bojang.

Among the most educated families in the country are the Tambedous and Jannehs. They are also involved in business.

Tambedou

Lawyer Sheriff M. Tambedou and Ba Tambedou are established and highly respected lawyers. In 2000, Ba fought for the release of student union leaders who were arrested after the April 10 & 11 student demonstrations.

The Janneh family’s Surahata is one of the oldest members of the Gambian Bar Association. Another member of the family, Hatib Janneh is a wealthy businessman who owns almost all the night clubs in the country.

Njie

One of the most powerful families in Banjul is the Njies (originally from Basse). The late Alh. Modou Musa Njie was the most influential businessman during Sir Dawda’s presidency.  His daughter, Lady Chilel Njie was the First Lady in the first republic. Lady Chilel’s brother, Omar Njie is a famous lawyer who runs his own law firm. The Njies own some of the buildings in the capital city, and they were the first to import petroleum in the country.

Khan

The Khansare famous in Jokadu. They include veteran educationist Alpha A. Khan (JP), governor Omar Khan of the Upper River Region and Essa Khan, the coordinator of The Gambia Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). The trio might not be warriors themselves, but at least they descend from them!

Kah

Imam Ratib Cherno Kah’s family is another prominent family from the North Bank Region. The imam’s late father was the founder of Medina Bai Mass in Niumi. Famous members of the family are Muhammed Jah of QCell, University of The Gambia’s Dr. Muhammed Jah, Imam Mass Jah of Pipeline Mosque, Professor Dr. Omar Jah and former Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, Dr. Njogu Bah.

Jobe

The Jobe family of Serre Kunda traces its history to the brothers, Sayerr Jobe and Mam Masamba Korkie Jobe, the founders of Serre Kunda and Niumi Mbanta respectively. The Jobes, who are now spread all over the country, include Imam Muhammed Jobe of the Serre Kunda Central Mosque, Abdoulie Hydara of The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), Tijan Jobe who was on international appointment in Botswana,  Ali Hydara of Hydara Karara Trading and Imam Malick Mboob of Niumi Mbanta.

In the Central River Region the most prominent family is arguably the Ceesays of Kudang. Dr. Ceesay is the owner of Kololi Clinic. He is related to the late Ousman Koro Ceesay, the finance minister that was killed by unknown assailants. Another famous member of the family is Kumba Ceesay-Marenah, a former minister of health and social welfare and now working with the United Nations.

Baldeh

The Baldehs are the most recognized politicians in Fulladu. Mathew Yaya Baldeh was Sir Dawda’s minister for works and communication. The late Buba Michael Baldeh was also a member of the Baldeh family. He was a politician that worked in both the first and second republic. The Baldehs are the only family that managed to have three cabinet ministers in the PPP regime.

Darboes

Among the most generous families in the country is the Darboes from Badibou, now based in Serre Kunda East. Their father, Toro Darboe was one of the founders of NCP. His son, Momodou Toro Darboe is a well-recognized philanthropist who was recently named Man of the Year 2014.  The acting commissioner general of The Gambia Revenue Authourity, Yankuba Darboe is also a prominent member of the family.

Kujabi

The most successful families in Foni include the Kujabis and Sanyangs. The late Pa Harry Kujabi played a significant role in the spread of western education and Christianity in the country. His son William was the headmaster of St. Therese Upper Basic School. Another son, Emil is the head of the Catholic Education Secretariat. The Kujabis are very influential in the Catholic Church. The current Police PRO, David Kujabi and former Solicitor General and Legal Secretary, Pa Harry Jammeh are also members of the family.

For the Sanyangs, they were the politicians. Momodou Sanyang was the first PPP Member of Parliament (MP) in Foni. When Foni was divided into two constituencies, his brother Kutti Sanyang also became MP. Karamo Sanyang, who is married to a Wollof woman from the Wally Ndow family, is the first known doctor from Foni. 

The Akus have many prominent families, because they are educated and influential. But one family that is well known in the country is the Rileys. Sydney Riley once served as the Inspector General of Police. He left the police in 1991 and started practicing as a lawyer. Her sister, Rose Colley was the director of Prison Services. The Rileys are very close to the Brights. Do you remember Tom Bright, the famous Radio Gambia announcer?

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